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Mercedes-Benz Fosters "Internet Plus" Channel to Embrace New Normal

Date:10-27 08:41 Source:未知 Authour:中商汽车

Mercedes-Benz Fosters "Internet Plus" Channel to Embrace New Normal

The Chinese auto market has seen slower growth this year, affecting in particular the luxury car market that used to lead the field in growth. But from January to August, while most mainstream luxury brands saw varying degrees of slower growth, Mercedes-Benz maintained two-digit growth against the general decline.

Against this background, Mercedes-Benz has drawn considerable attention recently. On September 4, it performed spectacularly at Chengdu Motor Show 2015 with a powerful product lineup of 36 models under four major brands - Mercedes-Benz, Mercedes-Maybach, Mercedes-AMG and Smart - fully illustrating the brand's exceptional strength. Among the models on display, the GLE SUV - integrating a Coupe's graceful lines with an SUV's outstanding performance - was launched in style with four heavyweight models, namely GLE 320 4MATIC, GLE 400 4MATIC, GLE450 AMG 4MATIC and Mercedes-AMG GLE 63 4MATIC. In addition, the all new Mercedes-Maybach S 500 4MATIC, combining the cutting-edge technology of the Mercedes-Benz S Class and Maybach's supreme and exclusive experience, also made its official debut at Chengdu, providing more premium options for the modern elite.

The new products displayed at this year's Chengdu Motor Show indicate that Mercedes-Benz has full confidence in its future sales growth, which is why it is continuing its intensive new launch program despite the general fall in growth in the Chinese auto market. According to Li Hongpeng, senior executive vice president of Beijing Mercedes-Benz Sales Service, Mercedes-Benz's confidence in its future growth in China not only derives from its products, but also from the new dealership system that is being fostered to adapt to the shrinking market.

Reshaping the dealership network

Q: The Chinese auto market has entered a new development phase this year, and the luxury car market has been affected. What do you think of the current market situation?

Li Hongpeng: I think a brand's market performance is decided by a number of factors, which can be categorized into several types. First, the brand must have competitive products. We sell products, but products should be backed by services and other elements. Second, it must have an efficient dealership network, which means channel, a term we frequently use in marketing. Channel not only involves products, but also customer experience. In fact, the level of customer response to a product is closely related to how satisfied they are with their brand experience, and that's exactly what dealers are able to provide. Of course in the Internet age existing channels have some functional weaknesses, a situation that creates a gap between what the channel provides and what customers need, and customers are limited by the channel when they want to know more about a product. Previously we failed to fully accommodate customer needs through our dealers, but now we've realized this and hope to apply the concept of "Internet Plus" to existing dealers, so as to create a new dealership system.

Q: What kind of dealership system does Mercedes-Benz think can adapt to the current and future markets?

Li Hongpng: The new dealership network should be able to adapt to the new era and embrace the new normal. Mercedes-Benz has launched a series of products in channel setup in the past two-plus years, and has tightened our relationship with dealers by setting up a mutual trust platform. The market is changing all the time, but the trust between us and our dealers remains solid, and we've done a great job building the dealership network and maintaining our relationship with dealers. Our efforts have paid off during the market decline this year. We often invite our dealer partners to participate in our activities, including visiting our HQ in Germany and learning about our new product development. Previously the HQ wasn't open to visits by dealers, but we started this practice three years ago for Chinese dealers to understand Mercedes-Benz's new models, especially the competitive ones in the Chinese market, so as to reinforce their confidence. A dealer’s confidence in a brand depends first and foremost on whether the brand has good products, and secondly on whether the management team is down-to-earth and conversant with the market situation. Mercedes-Benz has achieved considerable success in China and is fully prepared across the board. In my opinion, marketing personnel must work in a down-to-earth and step-by-step manner. It's ok to make mistakes once in a while, but we shouldn't keep making the same mistakes, and we are working hard to correct our previous deficiencies. According to our plan, Mercedes-Benz will have more outlets next year because one store will be matched with one or two small rapid repair outlets, which could result in a larger number than what we have in mind now. As a result, dealer investment will be significantly reduced and our customers’ service experience will be considerably improved. Our services will be more diversified and convenient as we shift our previous model of extensive 4S stores to the new model of diversified sales and repair, whereby a larger number of small repair outlets will be configured around existing 4S stores to cover more markets. Mercedes-Benz is promoting the "Internet Plus" mindset in its current network, and we will provide door-to-door service in the future too. Some dealers are already providing that service, and we will further promote it in time to come.

Efficient dealership network meets diversified market needs.

Q: Please tell us more about the dealership network you are responsible for.

Li Hongpeng: One thing I've learned from so many years of responsibility for the dealership network is that where we used to emphasize the number of outlets, I now think that's a very bad idea. Mercedes-Benz no longer pursues a greater number of outlets in its network development, but strives for a highly efficient network that can meet market demand. Mercedes-Benz has a well-developed set of indicators to measure the status of our network development, including layout, number of outlets, and scale, and especially the diversification of 4S stores. In addition to 4S stores, we also have a wide variety of city showrooms and have just rolled out the fast repair outlets this year in order to provide more convenient services for customers. As to our network development next year, we don't have a specific number in mind, but we have a clear idea about the outlet efficiency we want to achieve. Mercedes-Benz hopes to make our outlets more efficient and cover more markets with our existing outlets to provide convenience for customers. According to our plan, Mercedes-Benz will have more outlets next year because one store will be matched with one or two small fast repair outlets, which may result in a larger number than what we have in mind now. As a result, dealer investment will be significantly reduced and customer experience with our service will be considerably improved.

Q: What are the functions and advantages of fast repair outlets?

Li Hongpeng: Fast repair outlets will be closer to where you live or work and can provide metal sheet, paint spray and other repair and maintenance services. We are promoting the "Internet Plus" mindset in Mercedes-Benz's current network and will provide door-to-door service in the future too. Some dealers are already providing that service, and we will further promote it in time to come. For every new model launched and every new technology we promote, our dealership staff have to receive proper training to grasp the relevant data and learn how to use upgraded equipment. We very much doubt that unprofessional and unauthorized outlets will be able to do that. The future Mercedes-Benz outlets will provide considerate and comprehensive services, and 4S stores will think everything through for you, including factors the customer has not taken into account. That's how the Internet has affected us, and we've learnt a lot in this process. When Mercedes-Benz dealers are providing such quality services, I believe they will leave a brand new impression on Mercedes-Benz owners - we are the car manager by your side and we guarantee our customers greater convenience and satisfaction.

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